By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA
A Northeast Tennessee native has combined his entrepreneurial interests and his many years of work in the continuous improvement area to start a new company focused on fishermen, both those who do so competitively and those for whom it is a recreational activity.
“I’m helping fishermen keep-up with their catches, something that had always been done manually,” Ben Arnold told us in a recent interview. In essence, a process formerly done manually or with an Excel spreadsheet has seen a significant improvement through the application of technology.
The company, which he operates as a sideline on nights and weekends, is named ConnectScale. On the start-up’s website, Arnold describes it as “the most innovative solution to weighing and tracking catch data from fishing trips ever created. You catch it, you weigh it, the app logs it.”
Arnold, who now lives in Blountville, grew-up in the Rock Springs area of Kingsport and graduated with a degree in business management from East Tennessee State University. After a short stint in Denver with Charles Schwab, he returned to the region, this time to Knoxville where he earned his MBA from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.
“I took a job with LP Building Products in Nashville after graduation,” Arnold says. That’s where he was exposed to continuous improvement and earned his Lean Six Sigma Black Belt certification. After a brief stint with the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Internal Revenue Service where the inefficiencies challenged his continuous improvement thinking, Arnold joined an internal consulting team of a national health insurance company where he now serves as a Tech Program Manager.
The idea for ConnectScale came to him in late 2013, inspired in part by Travis Ketron, a cousin who competed in fishing tournaments on the weekend.
“I’m a process improvement guy,” Arnold emphasizes. “The idea came to me one day at home . . . add Bluetooth capabilities to a fishing scale.”
After discussing the idea with his wife Megan and getting her approval, they agreed to put some resources into the idea.
“I started researching and getting quotes,” Arnold says. “I emptied my 401K (retirement plan).”
The development took a year with much of the R&D performed in China.
“It made it much more affordable,” Arnold says.
Along the way, he connected with AccelNow, the Northeast Tennessee entrepreneurial support organization. “They’ve been a good resource,” he says.
After an Indiegogo campaign for funding failed to reach its goal, Arnold turned to the LiftFund whose motto is “Dream It. Fund It.” What better way to describe his start-up idea.
“We officially launched in November 2015 and had a really good first year,” he says, adding that sales directly from the company’s website and through retailers or distributors are approaching 2,500. Customers buy the scale, typically for $89.99, and download the app that stores the data on each catch for free.
Thus far, ConnectScale has been a bootstrapped effort.
“I’ve been happy with that approach and growing it gradually,” Arnold says.
Arnold has been approached by several other Fishing App companies about integration. Recently, he has partnered with FatSack Outdoors Inc., a start-up based in Greenville, SC. His role with the FatSack Outdoors team is as Co-Founder, Chief Technology Officer, and board member.
“We are developing an industry leading tournament platform that will allow anglers across the country to compete in virtual tournaments using the ConnectScale as weight verification. A first of its kind.” Arnold said.
He continues to emphasize his process improvement mentality and use what he calls “Voice of the Customer” feedback from consumers to develop a new and improved model for release later this year.